The trial of alleged former Central African Republic rebel commander Mahamat Said Abdel Kani opened on Monday, September 26 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC). Although he was charged with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he chose to plead not guilty throughout the hearing.
Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a 52-year-old former rebel leader, appeared in court wearing a dark gray three-piece suit with a light blue shirt. After a preliminary reading of the indictment, the accused claimed to have listened to everything but pleaded not guilty.
“I plead not guilty on all situations, on all charges,” the alleged ex-commander of the Muslim-dominated rebel coalition Séléka told the court presided over by Judge Miatta Maria Samba.
Seven charges against Said Abdel Kani
Said Abdel Kani faces seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between April and August 2013 in Bangui during civil unrest in the Central African Republic. Under his orders, many detainees suspected of supporting former president François Bozizé or the anti-Balaka, are mistreated, including by subjecting them to the torture method known as “arbatachar” to extract confessions.
Awful detention conditions and inhumane practices
Karim Khan is the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. He deplores conditions of detention that reflect no sense of humanity.
“The detainees were “treated, not as human beings, nor even as animals, but still a notch below. A humanity eviscerated by the practices of the accused.
Based on an arrest warrant issued in 2019, Mahamat Saïd Abdel Kani had been surrendered in January 2021 by the Bangui authorities to the ICC.
At the end of 2021, the court partially confirmed the charges against Said Abdel Kani, including torture, persecution, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity.
Two former Central African warlords, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and Alfred Yekatom, who led anti-balaka militias, are also currently on trial at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Séléka and anti-Balaka, two rival armed groups that have plunged Central African Republic into mourning
The Central African Republic, was plunged into a bloody civil war in 2013 after a coup that overthrew President François Bozizé.
The fighting pitted the coalition of armed groups that overthrew Bozizé, the predominantly Muslim Séléka, against predominantly Christian and animist militias supporting the president, the anti-Balaka.
The violence has reportedly left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, according to the ICC.